Employee Screenings Save Your Business … and May Save a Life

Staffing vendors who refer candidates on the strength of a resume and a phone interview-foregoing thorough background checks-are asking for trouble.

Case in point from the CEO of Palmiter Recruiting of Plymouth, Minnesota: 15 years ago, before she founded her staffing company, Elizabeth Palmiter was on assignment as a contractor herself when the nightmare of nightmares occurred at a client's worksite.

During a routine reference check, a contractor marched into his supervisor's office and killed him with an automatic rifle.
The scary thing is that because it was an automatic rifle, he could have killed other people, too, "says Palmiter.

Today, Palmiter works on the other side of the desk-as a staffing vendor for tier-one companies in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Impossible to forget, experiencing workplace violence first-hand has made Palmiter diligent about checking the backgrounds of all candidates-whether the hiring company requires it or not.
The same is not true at all staffing companies.

According to a recent report from Taleo Research, only 33 percent of companies conduct background checks on employees. The loss of human life is a rare and extreme consequence of not vetting prospective employees and contractors. More commonly, staffing vendors may face legal action, damage to business reputation, loss of clients and revenue and negative media coverage if they fail to thoroughly screen prospective candidates.

Criminal background checks are insufficient
Even when you do perform a criminal records check, keep in mind that it probably is not sufficient protection.

National background checks do not reveal all the offs on record, according to news reports [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7467732/ http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7467732 ] as there is no national database of felony convictions. Criminal records are filed in more than 3,100 courthouses throughout the United States reporting processes can differ widely, making it difficult and costly to guarantee that a new hire is not a law breaker.

27 percent of organizations surveyed said they had suffered serious damages due to a flawed records check, according to Taleo Research. Some of the consequences included workplace fraud (10 percent), employee theft (10 percent), workplace violence (7 percent).

So while you should always contract a reputable credential checking service, such as Verified Credentials, StaffingCheck or ADT, you should complete those reports with additional investigations, including:

  • credit checks
  • drug tests
  • in-person interviews
  • informal reference checks
  • technical interviews

Nothing replaces the personal interview

A 20-year veteran in the staffing industry, Rick Kuula, president of Stillwater, Minnesota-based staffing vendor Solutia Consulting, Inc. meets with every consultant during the hiring process.

Although a technical screening is part of Kuula's review process, it's not the main focus.

If we have a feeling that there's something not right with the candidate and we can not put a handle on it, we're better not to pursue it after the first contact, "says Kuula.

It's not rocket science. It's spending time with the candidate to get to know them, "says Kuula. The personal touch helps to insure that the candidate is a good fit for the hiring company's culture and the staffing vendor's talent pool for the long haul.

Digging deeper into credit history is another step you can take take-especially for candidates assign to financial industry accounts.

"If you care about the quality that you're presenting, especially to financial institutions, we need to know who we're submitting," says Tony Williamson, president of Golden Valley, Minnesota-based vendor Ajasa Technologies, Otherwise you risk losing the business on one bad apple. "An employer does not want to run the risk that an employee over his head in financial debt will be tempted to steal from a banking customer.

Perfecting the personal reference check

You should always check references to support a hiring decision. Unfortunately, this is made harder by the litigious nature of the corporate world. Many companies are associated to do much more than verify a former employee's job title and dates of employment, for fear that a candidate will sue them for providing a poor reference.

You should be prepared to be creative when calling references. Here are a couple of suggestions that have worked for others.

1. Work through your network

In the course of the conversation about the candidate's background, try to identify references that you and the candidate have in common. This is easier for the seasoned recruiter who personally knows hundreds of people in companies across a market or sector and a value-add that can help sell your worth to client companies.

2. Broaden your search –

You can also contact the given references and ask them to suggest others who may have experience with the candidate, offers Joseph Golemo, a branch manager with Minneapolis-based ENRGi Consulting. Everyone knows the people on the first list will give a good reference to the candidate, so you call them and ask some cursory questions, "says Golemo. "Then get to the real purpose of the call, which is to ask: 'Is there anyone else I can speak to that will be able to provide a reference for this candidate?'." "This second-tier reference will not have been coached or prepped by the candidate, so will probably provide a more balanced view of the candidate's background and capabilities.

3. Verifying identity –

Still, with all the rigors of a criminal history check, personal interviews, drug screenings, credit checks and reference checks, some companies are starting to take their screen processes a step further-to verify the identity of the candidate.

These companies have their consultants and potential hires fingerprinted at a local bank or police station, according to Golemo.
Fingerprinting candidates foils the possibility that an individual may attempt to borrow the identity of another worker in order to get a job they would be otherwise unqualified to perform.

It works like this: The candidate is fingerprinted during the screening process. Then on the first day one the job, the new hire is fingerprinted again to ensure the candidate's fingerprints match the prints on file.

It may seem extreme and time-consuming, but it also ensures you're providing the best, cleanest candidate for a project. In the long run, it protects you from the negative consequences of making a bad referral, and can retain a good client relationship for years to come.

Being rigorous also sends a clear message to a hiring company. "It shows that we're not just throwing resumes over the fence," says Palmiter. "It shows that we're doing our jobs and that we're a valuable resource."

Source by Doug Berg

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